September 20, 2013

{Leaving Blessings in Her Wake: Revisiting Diana}

[This is a reprint of my article, "Leaving Blessings in Her Wake: Revisiting Diana," featured in the fall issue of Season magazine. To read it in the magazine's layout online, scroll to page 45. Enjoy!]

With the recent birth of her grandson (a future king) and a movie coming out this fall focusing on the last two years of her life, the world’s most popular cover girl—and princess bride—is once again in the news. Revisiting Princess Diana may bring to mind many things, but most memorable to me is her lasting influence on the world of weddings. With her own glorious wedding in the summer of 1981, marrying the heir to the British throne, pomp and posh circumstance was resurrected and getting married became fashionable again!
Once Diana lit up the screen, brides-to-be were less embarrassed by their parents calling for a “traditional” wedding. The “studied informality of society in the 1970s,” wrote historian Carol McD. Wallace, “often made brides and grooms uncomfortable with the old-fashioned ritual they enacted as they married.” But Prince Charles in his dashing uniform and Lady Diana in her fairy princess gown made it all look so glamorous and appealing to the budding Yuppies of the 1980s, with visions of grandeur and love of gilded tradition.

I opened my bridal art-to-wear store in Atlanta on the wave of Diana’s magic—between the two Windsor royal weddings that decade—and my designers were busy creating “princess gowns” for years:   Elegant fluffs of ivory silk with big crinoline skirts, blown-up sleeves, corseted bodices, and hand-beaded trims of antique lace. Worn with gossamer tulle veils and crowns of wax orange blossoms (my customers weren’t yet ready for glittering tiaras), something very womanly was ignited in the process.
Bridal veils made a come-back with Diana. Hers was lush and sparkly and, in the old tradition, covered her face for a much fussed-over “virginal” arrival into St. Paul’s cathedral on her father’s arm. Many feminists called it a “shroud.” And for some modern young women just beginning to revel in their independence and sexual freedom, wearing a bridal veil indeed seemed a bit passé.

However, since my focus was helping a bride feel just as beautiful inside as she looked outside, I thought the veil—like Diana’s—seemed to connect her with something deeply feminine and quietly mysterious (whether worn over the face or simply attached to the back of her head.) Plus, it just looked so pretty! Later on I wrote this bit of wedding folklore:
What has become known as a “bridal veil” in European-American heritage borrows the best from both Eastern and Western cultures. From Eastern tradition, brides inherit a sense of being veiled as capturing a meditative space for their own private reverie. The Western lineage of the veil takes inspiration from the prestige and grandeur of fashions at long-ago royal courts.
Diana brought this collective spirit into the heart of modern brides worldwide, guiding their choices even today. Is the romance of wearing a bridal veil part of the “fairy princess myth”? Or is there something so irresistibly feminine about feeling mysterious—cocooned in sheer shimmering tulle or with the veil just floating behind, leaving “princess blessings” in her bridal wake?  ~

[This is a reprint of my article published in the fall issue of Season Magazine.]

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